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Photo by Marta Ramoneda
Kushra: Transexuals in Pakistan (2008)
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Photo by Mikel Aristregi
FotoPres is a biannual Spanish photography competition that gives awards for documentary-style assignments. Winners tend to be well-established photojournalists, whose work histories make for impressive, if alarming, reading. FotoPres also awards six grants to less established photographers to follow up their own projects.
The contest bears witness to the evolution of documentary photography, from its role as an accompaniment to a written text to becoming the news item itself and incorporating the techniques of an art form. Each FotoPres project compiles a number of interrelated images; the impact of press photography these days rests on it telling a story.
In terms of narrative, it is the runner-up, Walter Astrada, who excels. His gripping photostory of post-electoral violence in Kenya, in 2008, features vibrant colours, daredevil angles and echoed imagery that trips through the series of 10 shots, evoking an atmosphere of fear and frenzy.
A sense of foreboding permeates the work of Alfonso Moral, third-prize winner, who has compiled a mosaic of Lebanese society afflicted by the conflict between Hizbullah and Israel.
There is a degree of dialogue between the works on show. Grant winner Marta Ramoneda’s garish shots of the transsexuals of Pakistan, tolerated in the country if only as a kind of freak show, make Emilio Morenatti’s first prize images of violence against women in the country yet more devastating. Women also predominate in Lurdes R Basolí’s depictions of a squalid shantytown near Caracas, where the prospect of survival seems the more terrible of the options.
There are some misses too. Aleix Plademunt’s images of Disney-inspired (if debt-ridden) Dubai seem too dispassionate in this context. The collective Jo Expositos, a group of illegal immigrants living in Barcelona, is worthy of a grant, but this output is disappointing.
The arty stills of a Seventies’ dancehall by Fossi Vegue are accomplished and juxtapose weirdly with the best work in the show, which are hung opposite them. Mikel Aristregi took his grant and travelled to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, where temperatures can drop to -40º Celsius. His opaque images of alcoholics living in the bleakest conditions imaginable are utterly mesmerising. Here is where documentary photography really packs its punch.
Alx gave this show five stars out of five
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